Anxious children found to have bigger "fear centers" in brain
- June 17, 2014
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Children with high anxiety tend to have a larger “fear center” in the brain, with more connections to other parts of the brain, according to a study.
The report, in the current issue of the journal Biological Psychiatry, says anxiety problems may stem in part from changes in its development of that center, called the amygdala.
Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine recruited 76 children, seven to nine years of age. The parents completed assessments designed to measure the anxiety levels of the children, and the children then underwent scans of brain structure and function, through magnetic resonance or MRI imaging.
The researchers found that the more anxious children had, besides a larger “fear center,” increased connectivity between the amygdala and other brain regions responsible for attention, emotion perception, and regulation. They also developed an equation that they said reliably predicted the anxiety level from the MRI measurements.
The most affected region was the basolateral portion of the amygdala, they said, implicated in fear learning and the processing of emotion-related information.
“It is a bit surprising that alterations to the structure and connectivity of the amygdala were so significant in children with higher levels of anxiety, given both the young age of the children and the fact that their anxiety levels were too low to be observed clinically,” said Shaozheng Qin, one of the authors.
John Krystal, editor of the journal, added that future studies need to focus on whether the brain structure is a risk factor, or itself a consequence, of “increased childhood anxiety.” This line of research “will provide important new insights into the neurodevelopmental origins of anxiety in humans,” Qin said.
Source : http://www.world-science.net/othernews/140616_anxiety.htm